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Price: $50.00

Claire Huot

Claire Huot is a scholar specializing in Chinese studies. She has written two books on contemporary Chinese culture, La Petite révolution culturelle (Éditions Philippe Picquier), and China’s New Cultural Scene: A Handbook of Changes (Duke...

Robert Majzels

Robert Majzels’s books include Hellman’s Scrapbook, City of Forgetting, Apikoros Sleuth, and The Humbugs Diet. In 2007, he was awarded the Alcuin Society Prize for Excellence in Book Design for the limited edition of

Tang Dynasty (85)

Claire Huot

Robert Majzels

1 of 5 book set, 85
Binding: Hardcover, Anstey Bookbinding
Paper: Lynx Opaque
Edition Size: 200 |  Pages: 22 [accordion]
Size: 8.75 x 3.25
Visual Poetry | $50.00
ISBN 987-1-934254-42-4

Original page designs by Robert Majzels
Set stand designed and manufactured by Nathan Tremblay
Published simultaneously in Canada by Moveable Inc.

View the full 85 set here.

The Tang Dynasty period (618-907 CE) of Chinese history was a time of enormous cultural and artistic developments, and cultural criticism has long considered the poetry of that era to be the pinnacle of Chinese civilization’s abundant literary achievements.

In Tang Dynasty, Robert Majzels and Claire Huot re-translate works by a number of canonical Tang Dynasty figures such as Li Bai, Wang Wei, and Du Fu. By restricting each translation to exactly 85 letters—a constraint that the translators also applied to the other four volumes of 85—they approximate the limitation of 20 words in the original Chinese poetic form, the jueju or “perfected sentence.” Both the absence of spaces between the words and the words’ layout on the page, in which the letters are aligned from top to bottom and from right to left, result in a materialization of the letters that reflects the Chinese sensibility to characters. But the visual resemblance is not a re-presentation. Neither in form nor in content have the translators sought a one-to-one reproduction of the original, but rather a creative transformation of the original which enacts, in its visual form, the difficult negotiation of the reception in English of Chinese poetic works. The canonical, monumental positioning of the Tang poems in Chinese culture is evoked in the stone-like black blocks encasing each 85, and the presence of the original Chinese poem in a seal-like text box.

As with the four other limited edition volumes of 85, Tang Dynasty is printed on Lynx Opaque, an acid-free paper with superior longevity. Hardcover, with accordion fold binding and exquisitely embossed titles, it is a work of visual text-art in its own right, the minimalism and beauty of its material form complementing and illuminating the radical act of poetic exploration that the volume contains.

About the 85 set

What happens when we come face to face with the Other? Do we consume the other culture and come away unchanged, or do we allow our language, culture, and selves to be transformed, stretched to include new forms and meanings? The answer depends on our willingness to do the hard work of reading. The 85 project is a poetic exploration into the way one language and culture—in this case English—perceives and receives another—in this case Chinese. The work is grounded in a radical translational approach based on contemporary philosophical theories that return to the Judaic roots of Western civilization. This approach to the world, the self, and the Other is open-ended, nonlinear, and materialist—a practice evoked by the visual layout of the texts, which enacts the difficult negotiation of the reception in English of Chinese poetic works.